Good Life: Travel Often.

Jaz is a travelin’ man.

 

Martin and I traveled often back in the day.

In fact, the first three years of our long-distance relationship, before we married, it was all about traveling.

1) We had to travel if we wanted to see each other and 2) we were in Europe.

As you may already know, Europe was built for traveling. Affordable transportation. Affordable boarding. History everywhere. New countries, new languages, new culture in every direction. It was nothing to get off work on a Friday, go down to the train station, and purchase a ticket to go somewhere, anywhere, and be back at home and ready to work by Sunday evening.

We kept the traveling pace during our years in Italy, packing light and hauling our newborn with us to places like Rome, Salzburg, and Verona, swearing to ourselves that we would never abandon our passion for travel, which is one of the Good Life suggestions on our artwork.

And for the most part, I think we’ve kept that passion alive after we moved to the United States. But traveling just isn’t the same here in the States as it is in Europe. It’s expensive and time consuming to venture off to a new, unfamiliar place, and with more children and more demanding schedules in the mix, the times we really get to go off and discover a new place are really few and far between.

So when the opportunity to go visit our friends in Michigan popped up at the end of January, we went for it.

It was shortly before the seventh anniversary of my friend Nancy’s death, which I’ve written about HERE and HERE. Back in 2007, just days after I found my friend after she committed suicide, I flew to her hometown just outside of Detroit, Michigan to meet her family and answer whatever questions I could.

Of course, that visit was brief and very somber and sad, but it was the beginning of my friendship with Nancy’s older sister Janet. Almost immediately, we began to communicate frequently via email and phone calls, working through our mutual grief while getting to know and care about each other on our own terms through that shared loss. As social media grew and expanded, our connection only grew stronger.

I always promised that I would return to Michigan for a happier visit, and that I would bring my family with me, but the years rapidly passed by as more babies were born, jobs grew more demanding, and Miss C’s school schedule dictated a lot of our travel time.

But alas, as this anniversary started coming around, Janet and I decided to just do it. Both Detroit and Washington DC were experiencing crazy amounts of snow, but the last weekend in January was looking pretty good, a break in that polar vortex. Miss C’s school already had two days scheduled off for an extended weekend, and Martin wasn’t going anywhere for the Air Force Reserve any time soon.

So, I went ahead and put in for a few days of leave from my work, and that was that. We loaded up the van — even Patches Der Hund came along — and we headed up north.

Google added the snow effect, but I’m not kidding – that’s how it was nearly every single day of our visit.

 

The drive itself wasn’t bad at all. It took about the same amount of time it takes for us to drive to my family in Cincinnati. Detroit and the surrounding communities were all blanketed in gorgeous, record-setting snow, but all the roads were clear for the most part.

Janet and her husband Mark were so excited to see us, and almost immediately showered the kids with so many goodies and treats.

(I’m not kidding. The kids really did think we were in the North Pole and that Mark and Janet are Santa operatives.)

Though we were only there for a few days, it felt like much longer! We did so much — we visited Hitsville USA, the pawn store featured in HardCore Pawn (another of Martin’s favorite shows), and the kids were outside playing in the snow nearly every day. That area offered *the* best hills for sledding.

Best of all, we just got to spend time with Janet and Mark, and visit with their parents, who all treated me so kindly during my last visit in those unfortunate circumstances.

Janet and I got to talk a lot, too, about Nancy, and I learned a great deal more about her life before she came to DC, how she grew up, and how her death affected them all. Janet and I also shared a lot of the funny coincidences and situations we swear up and down are true signs that Nancy is still with us, and working on our behalf. Those who’ve lost loved ones know exactly what I’m talking about.

Both Janet and I marveled at how relaxed and ordinary it felt to be around each other. We could see how Martin and me are very similar to her and Mark, and not just because of our initials. We wondered if maybe that’s why Nancy felt so comfortable with us so immediately, because we reminded her of her family. Of course, we’ll never know for sure, but I think it’s fair to say that the gift to come out of that whole thing was our friendship.

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Our Michigan Scrapbook

Janet and Mark knew just the method for bundling up small children as quickly as possible.

 

Ready for the snow, yo.
Climbing up a snow pile in front of our friends’ house.
Jaz ready to go shovel some snow. Note the ski helmet.
Miss C drove the plow.

Lola did too!
That’s Miss C snapping the photo there. She’s becoming quite the photographer.
Martin listens as Paul describes his memories of Nuremberg during World War II. Paul was there at Utah Beach during D-Day.
Probably the most adorable photo I took during the entire visit.
Janet shows Martin some of her mom’s doll collection. Everything was very well organized and every doll was documented.
Lola and Jaz played with dolls and stuffed animals that we later learned were original from the 1950s and 1960s, but you wouldn’t have known it even though generations of kids played with those things. Toys were so well-made in the day, weren’t they?
Recognize this place?
Hitsville USA, where Motown was born and created for years. We took the tour, and even sang “My Girl” in the room where it was recorded.
This photo cracks me up. Janet and Miss C were two peas in a pod while hitting up some thrift shops. Shopping with those two got kind of crazy.
Jaz realized on this trip that he really likes ski wear.
We even visited the site where “Hardcore Pawn” is filmed.
And thanks to Janet’s persistence, Martin and Miss C even got to meet the owners, Les and Seth.